Thursday, December 6, 2007

My Google footprint

Here's a quick one to break up all that TPC monotony gumming up your RSS reader of choice. I've been thinking recently about how being on the job market subjects me to a higher possibility of being Googled. What do you get? And how do you control it?
  • The current first hit on my name ("Brian Croxall") is my profile page from last year when I was a Dean's Writing Center Fellow. That's good, I suppose. Except it doesn't really take you anywhere else. Oh, and I had fun writing the profile. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But I would hate to get a job interview where they ask me about my mastery of the "transdigital ukulele."
  • The next few hits are from the SIMILE mailing list archives. So I guess you could see that I"ve been interested in determining the pedagogical uses of interactive timelines.
  • Then you hit a piece of creative writing that I made in conjunction with a group, improvisational writing exercise that was the final activity of a class on "Bakhtin's Circles" taught by Walter Reed and Mikhail Epstein in Spring 2004. That's fun, I suppose.
  • A few more hits down one finally comes across a mention of something more "academic": a newsletter from the JFK Presidential library that mentions my winning an Ernest Hemingway Research Grant to do archival research. Of course, if you follow this link, you'll see that the page no longer contains this information.
  • And finally, the last hit on the page is for this blog.
Until a week ago or so when I first started thinking about this, the top hit on my name in Google was my Amazon wish list. I guess that' s nice if people want to buy me things. But it wasn't really the face I wanted to present to the world. There were a few other similar instances like that, and I've managed to remove these from the hits by changing my screen name from "real name" to a pen name.

I also decided to include my full name in my blogger profile--rather than just "Brian"--as I think this blog is at least a representation of my thoughts on subjects that I view formative for my future research and, especially, classroom practice. But thus far, it hasn't generated much of a bump up the charts.

Of course, the real solution to getting Google hits is to understand their algorithm (which I don't--especially since it's a trade secret) and to have other people link to pages that talk about you. This blog or any of the pages related to my academic work haven't generated many backlinks yet, and this is one reason that interesting things about me aren't really showing up.

Something exciting about the Internet is the chances it gives us to play with our identity. We all know that our interlocutors might be dogs. Or rather, we don't know if we know this. But sometimes we want to establish who we are online and we want to help people see relevant information about us. If you're a normal individual, it can be very difficult to work the system to the ensure that you have a real web presence and one that responds to what you'd want. Of course, there are arguments that I shouldn't have control over what people see about me. If you want that, you can ask me for my CV. A Google search, on the other hand, reveals a sort of Digg-like collective opinion of what's most important to know about "Brian Croxall."

There are, of course, two more things that I can do to try to increase my visibility. First, I can make a much more detailed and useful personal web page. And second, I can write a blog post on the subject of identity, include my identifier repeatedly and let the process take a meta-effect. Let's see how that works.

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